English programs encompass the study and the history of literature and equip students with advanced strategies for interpreting and understanding written work. English majors gain skills in analytical thinking, communication, and critical reading. English curricula build skills that apply in a wide variety of career paths, including journalism, advertising, public relations, and business. Moreover, many English program graduates go on to become educators, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects about 1.9 million job openings for teachers from the preschool to postsecondary school level between 2014 and 2024. This guide offers an overview of the major requirements and probable career outcomes for an English degree.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in English?
An English degree builds a variety of versatile skills. The typical English curriculum develops skills in verbal communication, critical thinking, organization, and argumentation. Literature introduces new ideas and perspectives on topics such as history, gender, religion, and many other major aspects of the human experience. Along with an advanced skill set, an English degree also offers the chance to build connections that can help you throughout your career. Networking opportunities can shape career paths both during school and after graduation, and your college can also connect you with internships and career counseling to give you a leg up in the workforce.
If you’re considering an English degree, a program’s delivery format might affect your decision. In higher education today, the choice typically comes down to online versus on-campus, though more and more schools are offering hybrid options. Students who also work full time may find that online courses offer the flexibility to earn a degree while still maintaining a current career. Conversely, if you’re fresh out of high school and want the conventional college experience — along with the more structured format of classroom learning — in-person programs provide more opportunities to interact with the campus community.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor’s in English?
English majors generally excel in positions that require deep thinking, analysis, and involved communication, both through reading and speaking. They’re likely to enjoy challenging work that allows for some creativity. Below, we outline some of the most common careers for English degree holders, along with brief job descriptions. The table below collects typical salary data and projected growth rates for each of these fields.
Writers create content for all types of media, such as books, magazines, TV shows, advertisements, and blogs. They commonly work from anywhere they can operate a computer, and many are self-employed. This job offers flexibility, freedom, and the opportunity to gain new knowledge constantly.
Median Annual Salary: $61,820
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
Teachers give students the academic skills they need for college or the workforce. English majors often teach English and literature at the middle school or high school level, but they may also become elementary school teachers who cover general subject knowledge in addition to English.
Median Annual Salary: $59,170
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
Journalists and reporters inform audiences about current events at the local, regional, national, and international level. They may publish their work in a variety of media, including newspapers, websites, television, and radio. English majors often find careers as print journalists, though many also work in other media.
Median Annual Salary: $40,910
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
- Public Relations Specialist
Working to maintain a positive public image for their clients, PR specialists interact with the media and attempt to control the type of information that reaches audiences. PR representatives may work for businesses, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, or individuals.
Median Annual Salary: $59,300
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
- Technical Writer
Technical writers create manuals and other support documents that explain complex processes to a general audience, combining technical expertise with verbal facility. They need strong written and verbal communication skills and the ability to interpret in-depth information and translate it into accessible language.
Median Annual Salary: $70,930
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
How to Choose a Bachelor's in English Program
When applying to an English program, you have several factors to consider, many of which fall outside the realm of conventional academics. Logistical factors such as program duration, enrollment options, delivery format, cost, and location may contribute to your decision. Most full-time bachelor’s programs take four years to complete, but part-time students might take longer to graduate. Some programs offer accelerated options that enable students to finish faster by taking a heavier course load, while others offer full-time enrollment, which may not work if you have a full-time job.
In general, online English programs offer more flexibility, and many allow you to take courses at your own pace. Online programs also cut down on many of the expenses associated with college, including transportation and accommodation costs. If you’re enrolling in campus courses, a school’s location may also influence your decision, particularly if you plan to seek employment there after graduation. Location can affect employment opportunities, cost of living, and quality of life, all of which may inform your choice of school.
College applicants should also take into account their prospective programs’ academic options and requirements. When you find a program of interest, consider whether it offers specializations that interest you, whether it offers or mandates internship or practicum work, or if students must complete a thesis or some other type of intensive final project. Also make sure to verify each prospective school’s accreditation status to determine its academic reputability.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor’s in English Programs
When researching potential institution options, you should always make sure your schools of interest are properly accredited. Accreditation verifies a school’s academic quality, indicating that the institution meets national or regional standards from a third-party governing body. Accreditation can determine whether your credits can transfer to other schools, and in some cases, whether you qualify to test for certain certification or licensure.
Most English programs don’t have specific accrediting bodies, but you can ensure a school’s reputability by determining its regional accreditation status. Regional accreditation comes from one of six agencies.
Bachelor's in English Program Admissions
You’ll also want to decide how many college applications you’d like to submit. Most school counselors recommend that graduating high school seniors apply to around eight colleges: two to three dream schools, two to three more realistic choices, and two to three safety schools that you know will probably admit you. If you’re a working professional, you might only apply to one or two programs, based on what best fits your needs for scheduling and location.
Most schools offer a simple online application process that you can complete entirely online. If you’re applying to an online program, there may be slightly more involved admissions requirements, as you won’t be completing any of the admissions or enrollment processes on campus. Admissions counselors can always help you navigate the intricacies of the application process.
- Minimum GPA: Many schools require applicants to have at least a certain minimum GPA, indicating general academic responsibility. Some schools may make exceptions to this standard if you can demonstrate extenuating circumstances or other academic achievements.
- Application: All schools require you to submit a general application, listing your essential information. Many colleges use the CommonApp, which is a single application that you can submit to several schools at once.
- Transcripts: Transcripts serve as your academic records from high school and previous college education. Most high schools release your transcripts for free, though colleges often charge a small fee.
- Letters of Recommendation: Many schools require letters of recommendation from professionals who can speak to your abilities, such as teachers or employers. Always be sure to ask for your letters well in advance of application dates.
- Test Scores: Most colleges require either SAT or ACT scores for students entering straight out of high school. If you’ve been out of high school for five or more years, most schools waive these test requirements.
- Application Fee: Typically, colleges charge a small fee to submit your application. If you can demonstrate financial need, you may be able to waive the application fee, though this typically involves filling out another form.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in English Program?
English curriculum requirements vary greatly between programs. Moreover, many programs give students the option to specialize in a unique area of study, such as creative writing or comparative literature, providing them with general English knowledge and additional skills in their concentration area. Curriculum details may vary based on your chosen concentration, as detailed below.
|Literature||Literature involves the analysis and interpretation of literary texts, such as novels, short stories, plays, poems, and essays. Students gain the skills to examine these texts, primarily through essays and discussions. Many programs may offer further specialization options, such as American, British, or world literature.||Writer, teacher, editor|
|Creative Writing||Creative writing examines literature in the context of craft. This concentration analyzes how writers build stories and trains students to write their own creative works. Many courses overlap with the literature concentration, but creative writing also focuses heavily on students’ own writing. A thesis or final project often involves the creation of a longform creative work.||Novelist, screenwriter, teacher|
|Film||In a film studies concentration, students examine films as literary texts, applying the same type of critical framework used to interpret literature. Courses explore the development of film and its relation to literature, and students gain the skills to write critically about film.||Film critic, teacher, writer|
|Comparative Literature||Comparative literature explores texts from different countries, examining literature as a facet of global culture. By drawing comparisons between different countries’ literatures, students gain a deeper perspective on each nation’s identity and values, exploring similarities and differences through a critical framework. Comparative literature majors typically concentrate in a foreign language, such as Spanish or French.||Teacher, journalist, publisher|
|Professional Writing||Professional writing focuses on the practical side of writing, including its use in the business world. Courses commonly explore topics in rhetoric and composition, emphasizing clarity and precise communication. Students also study literary texts, but these programs focus primarily on the application of writing for everyday use.||Technical writer, copywriter, public relations|
Courses in a Bachelor’s in English Program
Specific courses for an English degree vary widely depending on school, program, and concentration area, but most programs cover similar topics, particularly when it comes to foundational courses. Below, you’ll find a listing of five common English courses, along with descriptions of the material covered in each one.
- Postwar American Literature
Examining the period from directly after World War II and into the 21st century, this course focuses on unique developments in contemporary American literature and their relationship to the country’s tumultuous postwar period. Students typically explore the development of literary movements such as postmodernism and immigrant literature.
- Introduction to Film Studies
This course teaches students to “read” films, introducing fundamental formal elements such as cinematography, editing, lighting, sound, and music. Students explore the history of film in the 20th century and its development as an artform, typically viewing works from throughout the century.
- Introduction to Literary Theory
During the 20th century, literature experts developed new ways of reading and interpreting texts. Many programs require students to take at least one course that focuses on literary theory and practices of reading. This class provides a critical foundation for reading and introduces different methods for text interpretation.
- Literature of the South
Exploring the unique literature of the American South, this course encourages students to consider the relationship between literature and place. Coursework explores how authors depict regional identity in writing, commonly exploring the work of writers such as William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and Katherine Anne Porter.
- Science Fiction Literature
Increasingly the subject of academic study, science fiction now occupies a position of literary esteem, and many English programs include a course in science fiction and other fiction genres. Typically, students explore science fiction’s capacity for social commentary and its relationship to current technology.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor’s in English?
A bachelor’s degree in English typically takes about four years of full-time study to complete, but several factors can affect your overall completion time. Part-time enrollment often serves the needs of working students. It enables them to complete courses without putting their careers on hold, but it also extends their time in school.
Many programs, particularly online degrees, offer the option to change course load each semester. You can also take summer courses to complete your degree faster. Taking extra courses cuts down on your time in school, but extra credits almost always equate to a higher tuition rate. Most colleges charge by the credit, so the more you take, the more pay. Precise credit requirements vary between schools and programs, but most undergraduate English degrees require a minimum of 120 credits to graduate.
How Much Is a Bachelor’s in English?
The total cost of a bachelor’s in English depends on several factors, including school, program format, delivery method, and your own logistical needs. When it comes to overall tuition, the most significant factor is a school’s status as public or private. Public colleges receive state funding, which enables them to offer more affordable tuition rates to in-state students. Because private colleges do not receive state funding, they usually have higher tuition rates. Tuition varies widely between institutions, but CollegeBoard reported that for the 2017-2018 school year, the average annual tuition for a public college was $9,970, while tuition at a private college came to $34,740.
Several other factors can affect your overall education expenses. If you’re a fresh high school graduate planning to enroll in on-campus courses, you may also consider campus housing, which increases costs significantly. Even if you don’t plan to live on campus, the cost of commuting and parking each week can add to your expenses. Many students find online courses an affordable choice, as they eliminate many of the costs associated with traditional campus education. However, online classes typically include additional technology fees.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor’s in English Prepares For
- Teaching Certification
Teaching certification ranks among the most common pathways for English majors. Many English programs feature teaching certification options as part of their curriculum, but you can also pursue certification independently after completing your degree. Requirements vary between different states, but certification programs train students in teaching methods and classroom management strategies.
- CELTA Certification
The Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA) trains students to teach English to adult learners. This 120-hour certification course develops essential skills in English language education, and institutions worldwide recognize CELTA certification. Both language schools and international employers commonly hire certificate holders.
- TESOL Certification
Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages certification refers to a wide variety of programs that confer different ESL teaching certificates. Available both online and in person, these programs train students to teach English to learners of all ages. Most programs require 120-180 hours of instruction.
- Journalism Certification
Typically offered through English or communication departments, journalism certificate programs train students in the basic practices of reporting, including broadcasting and literary journalism. These certificate programs often connect students to internships at newspapers, magazines, websites, and other journalistic outlets, building professional experience and connections.
- Creative Writing Certification
This certificate trains students to create stories, poems, plays, and other forms of creative writing. Courses typically explore one form of writing and involve workshops in which students share their work for critique. These certificate programs often connect students with writing mentors and potential publication opportunities.
Resources for English Students
Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab hosts resources for all types of academic writing, including tips on organization, revision, citation, and subject-specific writing for English majors.
A trade magazine for creative writers, Poets & Writers features interviews and articles on modern authors as well as information on publication, agents, industry conferences, and academia.
The Society of Professional Journalists maintains this online resource to share information with journalism students or anyone interested in the journalistic writing. Informational topics include fact-checking, investigative journalism, and strategies for covering various topics.
This trade publication focuses on language, literacy, and education. English majors can find educational resources, study abroad opportunities, and even career opportunities available through a virtual job board.
Taking a lighthearted approach to grammar, punctuation, and usage, Grammar Girl offers helpful tips on writing issues both common and uncommon, helping ensure you that your writing stays as clear and professional as possible.
Professional Organizations in English
Professional organizations offer English majors the chance to connect with colleagues, sharing information and engaging in an active community. These organizations provide valuable support and resources for both current English students and graduates, including conferences, mentorship opportunities, professional development, continuing education, and specialized job listings. Most professional organizations require an annual membership fee, but the benefits of membership typically offset the cost.
The NCTE serves English teachers at all grade levels, from grade school through college. Members receive access to networking services, academic journals, and annual events.
Phi Delta Kappa International, a professional organization for educators, maintains the Educators Rising program to support future teachers. The organization offers educational resources, professional conferences, scholarships, and mentorship opportunities.
The premier professional organization for creative writers, PEN counts many of the world’s most notable novelists, poets, essayists, and playwrights among its members. The organization hosts conferences, scholarships, and literary awards.
The ASJA supports professional freelance writers of all types, offering networking opportunities, professional development seminars, market data, and connections to editors and publishers.
A professional organization specifically for editors, the EFA offers continuing education, connections to clients, industry conferences and events, job postings, and an exclusive member newsletter.